Michael C. Mozer, Benjamin Link, Harold Pashler
Psychologists have long been struck by individuals' limitations in expressing their internal sensations, impressions, and evaluations via rating scales. Instead of using an absolute scale, individuals rely on reference points from recent experience. This relativity of judgment limits the informativeness of responses on surveys, questionnaires, and evaluation forms. Fortunately, the cognitive processes that map stimuli to responses are not simply noisy, but rather are influenced by recent experience in a lawful manner. We explore techniques to remove sequential dependencies, and thereby decontaminate a series of ratings to obtain more meaningful human judgments. In our formulation, the problem is to infer latent (subjective) impressions from a sequence of stimulus labels (e.g., movie names) and responses. We describe an unsupervised approach that simultaneously recovers the impressions and parameters of a contamination model that predicts how recent judgments affect the current response. We test our iterated impression inference, or I^3, algorithm in three domains: rating the gap between dots, the desirability of a movie based on an advertisement, and the morality of an action. We demonstrate significant objective improvements in the quality of the recovered impressions.